My mildly anticipated Official Daily Norseman Co-writer Debut was put on hold last weekend by my annual ice fishing excursion to Lake of the Woods. We crammed our gear into the fish house and started our three-day odyssey of fishing, drinking heavily, eating heavily, bullsh*tting, and crapping in buckets lined with trash bags (unequivocally the least glamorous aspect of ice fishing). Throughout the trip, my uncle (as usual) boasted about what a superior fisherman he is and how he always catches the most and biggest fish. He's the type of "outdoorsman" that buys nearly every trinket and toy he can get his hands on to give him every possible advantage. While it's true that he routinely catches slightly more fish than the rest of us, we all know it's not because of his fancy lures and rods--it's because he's always had a gigantic horseshoe firmly entrenched in his ass when it comes to fishing. Of course he'd never admit it, but my uncle just tends to be a bit luckier than the rest of us. We're all using virtually the same tools and fishing in the same water--it's simply luck that puts him ahead.
So what on Earth does any of this have to do with football? If you give it some thought, everything. As much as the sports world hates to admit it, a lot of football boils down to plain old luck.
In fishing you might have the best tools in your tackle box, but what happens when a Northern snaps your line and your best lure disappears into the lake? What if the bait that didn't catch anything last year can barely stay in the water because of all the fish you're catching with it this year? What if a tiny adjustment in the depth you're fishing at is the difference between catching 3 times your limit and getting skunked? I could spell out the football analogies for each of these situations, but you're all big kids; you get it. The most seasoned fisherman (or football analyst) can claim to know what works, but deep down we know that far and away, we're all just guessing.
That said, I still spend an inordinate amount of time consuming just about every variety of sports media available. TV shows, XM radio, video clips, articles, blogs, podcasts--I haven't met a medium that doesn't help me waste valuable work time. Although I love listening to what the experts have to say, aren't they all just making glorified educated guesses as to what might happen to a larger audience? Sure, the Steelers defense should probably shut down Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday. But if they don't and Kurt Warner still throws a couple pick-sixes, you'd still have to feel good about Pittsburgh's chances. Or how about the Steelers do indeed shut down Minnesota's Finest, but an extremely-pissed-off Anquan Boldin turns into Michael Douglas in Falling Down and destroys everything in his path en route to a Cardinals victory...either situation is at the very least completely feasible, right? That's one of the great things about football--nobody ever knows for sure. But just like my uncle on Lake of the Woods, nobody wants to admit that it's all just a big crapshoot. We all have our foolproof secret theories on how to catch fish or win football games.
To illustrate my point, I took a few minutes to think about how things may have been different throughout the 2008 NFL landscape with a few minimal tweaks. Without just one stroke of luck, good or bad, the following might have happened:
- The Patriots get more than one quarter out of Tom Brady and make the playoffs at the very least because Bernard Pollard doesn't make it through his block in Week 1.
- The Broncos/Chargers Week 17 game doesn't mean anything because Eddy Guns' massive man-lungs don't inadvertently cause his whistle to blow (along with causing a small Class 2 hurricane in Denver) and he gets the call right in their Week 2 meeting.
- The Broncos/Chargers Week 17 game doesn't mean anything because that Chiefs special teamer simply falls on the Chargers' onside kick in Week 15.
- The Steelers get the #6 seed instead of the #2 seed because the Holmes TD in Week 15 doesn't get overturned.
- The Titans host the AFC Championship because Chris Johnson doesn't hurt his ankle against the Ravens.
- The Texans make a Cardinal-like run to the Super Bowl and we're all worshipping at the altar of Andre Johnson instead of Larry Fitzgerald because Sage Rosenfels doesn't helicopter fumble in Week 5 and Hurricane Ike misses Reliant Stadium.
- The Lions win a game and don't win the Worst Team Ever Award because the iffy pass interference call in the Metrodome doesn't get called in Week 6.
- The Cardinals go out quietly in the first round of the playoffs because Matt Ryan actually mixes up his snap counts and Larry Fitzgerald doesn't begin his mutation into some terrifying hybrid of Cris Carter and The Predator.
- The Vikings take control of their playoff game against the Eagles because Asante Samuel drops the easy interception that Tarvaris Jackson telegraphed to him by staring down his receivers all day.
OK maybe that last one was just for me, but hopefully you get what I'm saying. This is partially why I didn't want to do the logical offseason thing and delve into the NFL Draft for my first post. It's the biggest pile of guesswork of them all! I will bet any takers a million dollars that nobody's mock draft gets even the first round completely right. Not even Mel "I Can't Believe This Is All I Do for a Living" Kiper. Not even Mel Kiper's Hair, which of course now must be mentioned separately from the man it resides upon, and I believe gets its own mock draft. Why waste my time analyzing who the Vikings may or may not get when they may or may not pick with the 22nd pick of the 2009 NFL Draft? I'll be more than happy to chime in on what position the Vikings should draft and give you my opinions on who they end up drafting, but you won't see me posting any mock drafts. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's why they're called mock drafts--because they're incredibly easy to mock after the fact.
So when you're hearing the smorgasbord of "expert analysis" thrown at you from all sides during this week leading up to the Super Bowl, just remember that everyone is simply guessing and hoping they catch the biggest fish. But you and I both know that it will come down to which Steeler or Cardinal has the biggest horseshoe lodged in his ass.